Jordan’s King Abdullah II to fulfill Joe Biden in Washington

In a flip of fortune for Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who has been coping with a collection of home and exterior crises, the 59-year-old monarch is ready to change into the primary Arab chief to fulfill with US President Joe Biden when he visits the White House on Monday.

A staunch US ally, the king has dominated Jordan for the previous 21 years however skilled troublesome relations with Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, who he believed was sidelining his nation from regional developments.

“There was no warm relation between Trump and the king,” Saud al-Sharafat, a former brigadier-general within the Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate, advised Al Jazeera.

“[Jordan’s] political leaders felt [Trump] was totally neglecting the Hashemite dynasty.”

In 2017 the king advised Trump his choice to recognise Jerusalem because the capital of Israel would have “dangerous repercussions on the stability and security of the region”, in response to a palace assertion.

Although Jordan established full relations with Israel in 1994, the king additionally opposed the offers the Trump administration brokered in 2020 with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Morocco establishing diplomatic relations with Israel.

King Abdullah and Vice President Biden hearken to Jordanian General Mashal Mohammad Zaben throughout their go to to a joint Jordanian-American coaching centre at Zarqa in 2016 [File: Muhammad Hamed/Reuters]

Analysts say figures in Trump’s administration considered the king as an impediment to additional offers.

The king is hoping for a greater relationship with Biden.

“Jordan will be looking at a friend in Joe Biden,” Osama al-Sharif, an Amman-based political analyst, advised Al Jazeera.

Biden’s administration has stated they won’t move the US embassy again to Tel Aviv, however will reopen its consulate normal in Jerusalem, restoring ties with Palestinians.

“The president will publicly recognise the Hashemites’ special role in East Jerusalem and reinstate Jordan’s role as a key interlocutor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” al-Sharif stated.

“This visit puts wind in the sails of the king who has been under quite a bit of pressure,” Natasha Hall, a senior fellow with the Middle East programme on the Center for Strategic and International Studies, advised Al Jazeera.

Staying energy

In April, Jordan was rocked by a sedition plot that authorities declare was geared toward unseating the monarch. A distant relative of the king and former senior adviser have been lately sentenced to 15 years in jail for his or her function in plotting to exchange the king together with his half-brother, Prince Hamzah bin al-Hussein.

Prince Hamzah was positioned below home arrest in April and has since pledged allegiance to his brother, however not earlier than releasing movies wherein he referred to as out rampant corruption, a breakdown in governance, and creeping lack of political freedom within the kingdom.

Allegations that overseas powers have been concerned, or had information of the plot, uncovered tensions between Jordan and its ally, Saudi Arabia.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, second proper, Prince Hamzah bin Al Hussein, fourth proper in blue masks, Prince Hassan bin Talal, fifth proper, of their first joint public look since a palace feud in April, 2021 [File: Royal Court Twitter Account via AP]

As head of the Hashemite royal household, King Abdullah is the official custodian of each Muslim and Christian holy websites in Jerusalem, which Jordan dominated till its defeat by Israel within the 1967 War.

Nearly half of Jordan’s 10.6 million inhabitants is of Palestinian origin and lots of Jordanians have robust familial ties throughout the border within the West Bank.

As the king prepares to go to the White House, Abdullah has not solely outlasted Trump but additionally his shut ally, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom he reportedly had an antagonistic relationship.

Before leaving on his US journey, King Abdullah met secretly with the brand new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet in Amman, in response to a number of Israeli media stories. Coinciding with this assembly, the international locations’ two overseas ministers agreed to a deal that noticed Israel double its sale of water to the resource-poor kingdom, and permit for a rise in Jordanian exports to the West Bank.

Economic disaster

While the palace intrigue and neighbouring rivalries have garnered a lot worldwide consideration, the king additionally faces rising discontent at home over corruption and a stagnating economic system.

“The economy is going to top the list of discussions,” Sharafat stated. “We are in a very bad situation where every aspect of life has been affected by the economic crisis.”

Jordan’s King Abdullah II speaks throughout a gathering with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Amman [Alex Brandon via AP]

Jordan’s economic system has been deteriorating for numerous years. Gross home product (GDP) per capita has been roughly declining since 2009.

The economic system is solely not rising quick sufficient to create sufficient jobs for the nation’s swelling inhabitants. Jordan has one of many lowest official labour drive participation charges on the earth. Legions of staff toil within the casual economic system, the place they lack job safety and advantages.

The pandemic has solely worsened these financial challenges, crushing tourism that accounts for 20 % of GDP and hammering remittances from the Gulf after oil costs crashed in 2020. By the ultimate quarter of final 12 months, unemployment reached a blistering 24.7 %.

Jordan can be coping with an inflow of refugees from neighbouring conflicts, internet hosting nearly 1.three million Syrians from its war-ravaged neighbour.

Foreign assist is essential to supporting the nation. The US is Jordan’s largest donor, contributing greater than $1.5bn in 2020. The stage of US assist tops the quantity offered to Egypt, one other US ally within the area with a inhabitants 10 instances the scale of Jordan.

The king is anticipated to hunt extra assist, however some analysts say there are limits to how way more the US will present. Even with strained relations below the Trump administration, the nation was given a rise in assist in 2018 – a further $1.3bn over 5 years.

“I don’t see much hope of military and economic assistance increasing. We have really reached the peak in terms of assistance that we could receive from the US,” Oreib Rantawi, director of the Amman-based Al Quds Center for Political Studies, advised Al Jazeera.

Pressure to reform

Many strange Jordanians say the nation is suffering from excessive ranges of corruption which have seeped into nearly each facet of life. And whereas exterior shocks have actually weighed on the economic system, it has bigger structural points to handle.

The social contract sustaining stability within the resource-poor kingdom revolves round an unlimited patronage system wherein Jordanian tribes assist the Hashemite monarchy, and in return are supplied with public sector salaries.

Even with steps taken to handle public spending as a part of its IMF loans, Jordan’s 2021 finances reveals how entrenched the system is. This 12 months, 65 % of complete state spending is devoted to public sector salaries and pensions, and 17 % is earmarked to service the skyrocketing debt.

Hall stated a possible dialogue between Jordan and the Biden administration might search to hyperlink assist to political reform in a rustic that lately slid within the Freedom House Index from “partially free” to “not free”.

“I don’t think it will be a confrontational approach, it will be more friend to friend,” she stated of potential efforts by Washington to get Jordan to handle political reforms which have lately stalled.

Following the sedition plot, King Abdullah appointed a 92-member reform committee, however its scope was restricted to the nation’s election legal guidelines and lots of critics declare it’s a half-hearted try by the federal government to push speak of significant change down the highway.

“The current system is not sustainable,” Sharafat stated, including, “It may not be in public view but I believe the king will hear criticism in DC of the way things are being handled internally.”

Rantawi stated the Biden administration’s give attention to human rights gives reformers within the kingdom a chance however emphasises the necessity for real efforts.

“It shouldn’t just be to please the newcomer in Washington DC. It is our duty and it is in Jordan’s own interest to enact systemic democratic reforms,” he stated.

‘Dependable agents’

Grievances round political and financial points will probably proceed to plague Jordan because the United States’ give attention to terrorism recedes and Washington reassess its commitments within the area in an effort to tackle great-power threats from China and Russia.

While the previous few months have appeared bleak for Jordan, the modifications convulsing the area additionally provide alternatives. King Abdullah II met together with his Egyptian and Iraqi counterparts in Baghdad this month because the three international locations look to deepen cooperation on financial and safety points.

“I think the US is going to look for dependable agents to handle some files in the region, and I see Jordan gaining more importance for the US,” Rantawi stated.

The problem for Jordan will likely be to leverage its stability and the belief Western states have in it to create extra alternatives for its individuals. If it will possibly, the Hashemite monarchy identified for its endurance might discover its stable footing within the new Middle East.

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